Since I’m still a competitive swimmer I’m not only interested in nutrition as an aspect of weight regulation, I’m very interested in nutrition for peak performance. Study after study show a low carbohydrate, high fat diet is beneficial to endurance athletes, but my events aren’t endurance events, so I wondered “what about me?” My usual events last from under 30 seconds to just under 3 minutes. So, I’ve been doing my research, and reading “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” by Jeff Volek, PhD, RD, and Stephen Phinney, MD, PhD.
The book reconfirms the benefits of a low carb, high fat diet for endurance athletes, as I was sure it would. The authors say they could just as easily titled it “The Art and Science of Avoiding the Bonk.” The “bonk” is the same
as “the wall,” as in hitting the same when you run completely out of energy (like at mile 20 in a marathon). But the facts documented show there is no reason to believe it wouldn’t help those who specialize in short burst events as well.
Although I’ve not yet seen a study focusing on power athletes, the low carb diet helps with recovery time after hard workouts, which is good for everyone. It also stands to reason that if muscle endurance is enhanced by the efficiency of fat burning as opposed to carb burning, concentration will benefit as well. Face it folks, your brain burns glycogen the same as your muscles do, and as far as I’m concerned thinking should be more than just a sprint.
Besides, changing my fuel source isn’t going to change the percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers I have. For me to increase my speed is a training specific process, but if I can come into each workout in a better place, I should have better workouts. I picked up some other nuggets as well, but I also starting thinking about how all this knowledge fits in with the lives of those who aren’t driven to compete but would like to be able to enjoy activity and stay pain free.
Have you ever heard of “presenteeism”? To business and industry, it’s the employees practice of coming to work despite illness, injury, anxiety, etc., resulting in reduced productivity. Quality suffers when you don’t sleep well at night because of your sleep apnea. Efficiency slows when your back is killing you, and your feet hurt. You get the idea. It’s said to cost much more each year than absenteeism.
Now let’s put that on a personal level. Being at a healthy weight is the biggest advantage you can give yourself towards maintaining a high quality of life, long into life. It also reduces your personal presenteeism. Having a body that runs on fat as opposed to carbs is flat out more efficient over the long haul, and that isn’t restricted to weekend warriors and recreational athletes. Even if you don’t suffer from any physical malady, but are an active gardener, parent or dog owner….and you also have to work for a living, the same principals apply.
Brain fog is a term that is particularly appropriate around 2:30 p.m. in way too many workplaces. It’s the mental equivalent to bonking. Brain productivity has to count in this equation too, and if you never bonk mentally, hallelujah!
Mentally and physically, you will run better on the right fuel. You can count on it over the long haul.